Spring Breakers Won’t Be Released in Lebanon

It may have been received with mixed reviews but we won’t get the chance to judge Spring Breakers ourselves, as per a Grand Cinemas tweet – one of Lebanon’s main cinema chains.

Spring Breakers Lebanon

 

Empire isn’t showing the movie as well in its list of upcoming releases.

 

The movie is known to have nudity, drug use and heavy language. It is rated R in the United States. The official synopsis is the following:

Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez) have been best friends since grade school. They live together in a boring college dorm and are hungry for adventure. All they have to do is save enough money for spring break to get their shot at having some real fun. A serendipitous encounter with rapper “Alien” (James Franco) promises to provide the girls with all the thrill and excitement they could hope for. With the encouragement of their new friend, it soon becomes unclear how far the girls are willing to go to experience a spring break they will never forget.

But are those criteria enough to qualify as the “circumstances” that are not allowing Spring Breakers from having a Lebanese release? I hardly think so. After all, many R-rated movies end up being released here and some Lebanese productions such as Ossit Sawani feature sex scenes as well as drug use – by underage people no less.

Grand Cinemas didn’t reply to tweets asking what those “circumstances” are. It is known, though, that circumstances leading to movies not released here are either political or religious. I doubt though that Spring Breakers violates any of Lebanon’s many sanctities in those two domains.

I guess we’ll never know why Lebanon’s censorship bureau decided this movie shouldn’t be screened here. But when will they know that there’s no such thing as a “ban” in the time and age of digital media? And when will they know that people are aware enough to judge anything’s merit away from their chopping paws?

Spring Breakers will be soon available for download everywhere. Good luck censoring that.

Update:

The SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom followed up on this issue with both the Censorship Bureau and Grand Cinemas.
There has not been yet any official request by the Cinema circuit submitted to the General Security’s bureau to receive an approval for screening the movie. Hence, there was no decision whatsoever, neither positive nor negative, regarding Spring Breakers.
As for Grand Cinemas, they said they still do not know when or if they will want to screen that movie.
So there is no case of censorship for this movie.

No idea why Grand Cinema was referring to “circumstances” in their reply if they haven’t even looked at the movie yet.

Rejecting Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack

The Attack Ziad Doueiri

News of Lebanon’s refusal to submit Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack, a movie I had originally told you about here, to the Oscars is making the rounds. You can check all the details here (link).

If the movie had been banned from being shown in theaters here, the discussion would be different entirely. But is the movie really representative enough of Lebanon to be our submission for the Oscars? And is this refusal enough for us to call the committee responsible for such dealings ignorant and with a backward mentality?

I think not.

The movie features the following:

  • A story by an Algerian author.
  • No Lebanese crew.
  • Israeli and Palestinian actors.
  • Location of shooting is Israel.
  • Lebanese director with an American passport.

Would I want to see the movie? Definitely. Do I want it to represent Lebanon at the Academy Awards? Let’s just say I’m on the fence regarding this.

This isn’t exactly West Beirut for us to cry wolf for it not being submitted. If Ziad Doueiri truly wanted his movie to be Lebanon’s official submission to the 85th Academy Awards (my predictions – to lighten the mood), he could have at least made an effort to make the movie more Lebanese by maybe shooting it over here and not in Israel and having a Lebanese actor or actress play a role in it, despite both elements not being a criteria required for Academy Award approval.

As it stands, the only thing Lebanese about The Attack is the director who wouldn’t have been able to make this movie if he had actually employed his Lebanese aspect from a bureaucratic point of view. The director says his choices regarding the movie’s components are logical.

Well, I say the committee’s decision is entirely logical as well. Not everything is supposed to be turned into a national matter of censorship.

 

My Last Valentine in Beirut To Be Banned?

Leave it to Lebanese movies to reveal inherent complexes among some strata in our society. I have yet to watch My Last Valentine in Beirut and seeing as it’s already been released, I figured it must have passed through the fangs of censorship and landed safely on our screens. But that was too good to last apparently.

No, the problem isn’t with the supposed sex in it. It’s not with the main character being a prostitute. It’s not with the use of “foul” language that might be offensive to some as if people don’t hear the word “sharmou*a” day in day out. The problem with My Last Valentine in Beirut seems to be more clothes-related.

The syndicate of nursing in Lebanon is filing a lawsuit against My Last Valentine in Beirut for using a nurse’s outfit seductively in the movie. The sultry portrayal of nurses in the movie is, according to the syndicate, a violation of the sanctity of their profession. I guess they haven’t played doctor before.

If the demands of the syndicate are met, the movie will be either withdrawn from cinemas or edited to remove these “offensive” scenes. Lebanese filmmakers, regardless of how horrible their movies might be, apparently need to bring in portions from every single part of society for early screenings. You never know what might be in their movies that might be offensive to someone whose mental capacities seem to be limited at best because it seems that lately anyone finds something offensive in absolutely anything and cannot get past it.

You’d think the Lebanese Nursing syndicate would be fighting for the rights of Lebanon’s nurses. You’d think they’d be demanding better wages, better working hours, more benefits. Instead they throw their efforts at My Last Valentine in Beirut because they know that if they make a big enough fuss, someone out there in Lebanon’s narrow-minded censorship bureau will respond. And it’s not like the “sexy nurse” attire in movies hasn’t been overly overdone but feeling empowered only happens when it comes to local productions.

And how about that horrible XXL ad? Doesn’t it have “sexy nurses” for them to sue?

I don’t know if My Last Valentine in Beirut is a good enough movie or not. But I find a request to censor a movie based on what a character wore in it is ridiculous. How silly is it for anyone to find what a character wears in a movie offensive enough to call for the banning or the censoring of said movie? I’m sure even less open countries of the region haven’t had such problems with their productions. And when will people learn that asking to ban anything only brings attention to the thing you want to ban? It happened recently with Tannoura Maxi, which seems to be winning well at international film festivals.

There’s a fine line between fighting for your rights and being absolutely obnoxious. Lebanon’s nursing syndicate is sitting firmly in the nauseating camp. And some wonder where some nurses get their attitude!

 

Now Lebanon Censored… By Saad Hariri

Beirut Spring has just reported that a Now Lebanon article criticizing Saad Hariri and praising Najib Mikati has been pulled offline by the website. You can check out a screenshot of the article here.

If you’re interested in reading it, here’s a transcript (via Qifa Nabki):

The Baby and the Bathwater

If we are to believe a report in al-Joumhouria newspaper on Monday, French President François Hollande and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, in a meeting also attended by former Lebanese PM and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, will not back current Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati if a new government is formed.

Do the Lebanese not have a say in any of this? We should worry at the carefree way in which Lebanon’s future is always being decided by outside actors, no matter who they are. The region is already polarized between the Sunni and Shiite communities in a dangerous standoff between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Such horse-trading will only serve to entrench further the sense that foreign powers control Lebanon’s destiny and that each side of the political divide is justified in having its regional backer.

Another worrying aspect was the presence of Hariri, a man who must surely concede that his role in Lebanese political life must now be confined to the margins of Sunni politics. He is living in LaLa Land if he still feels that the Lebanese public would welcome him back with open arms and see him as their salvation. In fact, it would be scandalous if he stood for parliament in the next general elections, let alone offer himself as a candidate for the premiership. (Ditto Nayla Tueni and the rest of the absentee MPs who, by their negligence, have done their best to snuff out the flame that was March 14 and insult the intelligence of the voters who sent them to Najmeh Square).

For it is not enough to simply oppose March 8’s fiendish agenda and make all the right noises about democracy, independence, sovereignty and the sanctity of the state. March 14 members must also take seriously their roles as public servants. The recent deterioration of infrastructure and the apparent collapse of law and order during August have woken up the public to the fact that if they want a functioning, safe, peaceful and prosperous country, and if they want laws enacted, it will not happen if the people they elect to achieve these ends are nowhere to be seen.

Which brings us back to the issue of Miqati and his suitability for the premiership. When he accepted to lead the Hezbollah-dominated government in the spring of 2011, many saw him as an opportunist who would trade what was left of Lebanon’s integrity for a place in the history books.

In reality and with hindsight, he has not done a terrible job. He has advanced the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (despite the Syrian dream of killing the process altogether) and spoken out against Syrian violations of Lebanese territorial integrity.Given the fact that he has had to work with a cabinet of which Hezbollah and its obstructionist allies in the FPM are a part, he has made a decent fist of holding things together.

Hollande and the rest of the international community are right to condemn the current government, which has set new standards in uselessness, but we should avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. With the exception of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Miqati is arguably the best candidate we have to lead this country in troubled times.In the meantime, the Lebanese must fight to wrestle their destiny from the hands of those who see Lebanon as a strategic asset instead of a sovereign nation, and all our MPs, without exception, should show up for work.

Saad Hariri, it seems, cannot take criticism. Especially when it’s coupled with praise to his political adversary, which is beyond disgraceful. It seems that Saad Hariri is so worried about his political tenure, all the way from his Parisian lala land (be careful of the cold dear MP, I heard it’s quite chilly this time of year) that he pulled his strings all the way to Lebanon in order to pull the article off a website in which he has influence.

The fact that Saad Hariri cannot take criticism is beyond worrying. It’s also very childish. It’s akin to one of those impertinent children who run to their mothers whenever those “bad kids” on the playground don’t let them play. And this type of behavior is certainly not acceptable from the proclaimed political leader of one of Lebanon’s main parties.

The sad thing though is that this doesn’t only apply to Saad Hariri. Each and every Lebanese politician is off limits by some platform or the other – and what remains, at the end of the day, is an electorate who’s limited by the narrow political opinion it gets from websites that are censored by the politicians it thinks are the best of the best.

And they all run to their mothers crying. They seem to be missing one key element though: good luck silencing the internet.

Update:

The article is back up (here) with the following disclaimer:

Disclaimer: NOW Lebanon has intentionally removed this article from the site. It was not removed because of censorship, but rather because of the lack of proper arguments. We would like to repeat, again, that NOW is not owned, in whole or in part, by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, nor any other political party or figure.

Yeah, right. Such “justifications” are an insult to Now Lebanon’s reader’s intelligence.

Lebanon’s Freedom of Speech & Iran’s Lack Thereof

This picture has rubbed the Iranian embassy in Lebanon the wrong way. Apparently, it’s an insult to all Muslims because it’s portraying Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of Iran, in a negative way. They also believe that the caricature is in violation of Lebanese law.

It seems the Iranian lack of freedom of speech has seeped into their embassies as well because they fail to understand that just because Khamenei is “holy” to them and possibly a limited number of Lebanese, the rest of the world and of Lebanon absolutely couldn’t care less.

What the Iranian embassy seems to also fail to grasp is that religious figures are not off limits for caricature in Lebanon. How many times has the Maronite Patriach been portrayed as such? How many times has the Sunni Mufti been portrayed in caricatures? How many times has Hassan Nasrallah been drawn in newspapers?

The answer is way too many times for me to even want to research it.

Lebanese newspapers do not approach prophets in their drawings because of journalistic principles. Is Khamenei a prophet? Is he Holier than the prophet Mohammad to have the Iranian embassy panic over him being drawn in a caricature?

The bottom line is: Iran, you have your country and you think things are great over there just the way they are. But keep your insecure paws off of one of the few things keeping me clinging to mine. You are in Lebanon as a diplomatic presence and you’re respected to that extent but it is not in your job description to become a censorship bureau.

God knows we already have too many red lines we can’t cross. We don’t need your red lines added to ours as well.

Censored Billboard on Lebanese Highway

I don’t get this at all.

Why would anyone do this to a billboard that they plastered all over the highway?

Do they think it will shift male drivers’ attention from the road? I can think of other ads that do that much better. Shouldn’t they be worried about that alfa-BLOM bank billboard that messes up your vision before you can shift back your focus on driving?

Since when are we a country that’s afraid of showing cleavage in posters? Who allowed such a thing to happen in the first place?

Newsflash: Lebanon is not an uptight and ultra-conservative country.

This is horrifying.

Censorship in Lebanon: Not Exemplary in the Middle East?

The Samir Kassir Foundation recently shared this study that they conducted regarding various forms of censorship in the region. It’s an  interesting read. You can get the PDF here.

What’s interesting to note about the study is that cases of censorship in Lebanon are not among the region’s best. But fear not, it’s not the state that’s actually doing all the censorship.

In Lebanon, two phenomena raised concerns among defenders of liberty. First, the physical assaults on journalists by non-state actors, whether members of political parties, demonstrators, or a new category of activists commonly called “the inhabitants” (Al-Ahali) of some delicate regions. All sides of the Lebanese political spectrum were responsible for such acts.

In fact, in the facts & figures part of the study, a graph showing attacks on journalists in each country of the study had the following results:

The low number in Syria is not to be interpreted positively, as the study conductors noted. The attacks, when they’ve taken place, were brutal, as others graphs of the study show: Syria has the highest rate of violence against intellectuals and journalists.

What’s interesting about the results, however, is that 51 out of 55 attacks on journalists in Lebanon weren’t carried out by State authorities, but by non-state entities. Examples given are: Hariri supporters attacking journalists on the “Sunni Day of Anger” when Hariri’s government was toppled, as well as Hezbollah forces attacking journalists investigating their transgressions in Lassa and other villages in South Lebanon.

Another interesting fact to note is that the sector most affected by censorship in Lebanon was cinema with more than 10 movies being banned from being screened in Lebanon. Officials justified the decisions as a necessary precaution to preserve Lebanon’s relation with Syria and Iran and our civil peace. I think they were referring to the abysmal Beirut Hotel in one of those points.

For the non-state bans in Lebanon, one is regarding the LMFAO concert ban which happened due to some groups protesting the band’s anti-Christian feel in their song’s video. MEA has banned the newspaper Al Akhbar from being distributed on its flights. And last but not least, the infamous incident to hide Steven Spielberg’s name off the “Tintin” movie poster.

All in all, while Syria takes the cake when it comes to fighting liberties, the situation in Lebanon is not exactly peachy according to this study. Honestly, I didn’t think we had this bad compared to neighboring countries, which leads me to my conclusion.

What I think is a grave flaw in the conduction of this study is that such events in neighboring countries do not make headline news as they do over here, making our numbers seem inflated compared to them. Most of the transgressions that happen in them might be hidden or kept under the radar, making the situation seem much better than it is.

Either way, I’d take the results of this study with a grain of salt. While it is always an interesting read, I don’t think it’s correct nor is it a representative comparison between the countries of the region. Perhaps a look at the numbers of countries known for championing freedom is a clearer comparison. At least you’d know that being skeptical regarding their numbers is unfounded.